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A seat at the table

MANILA, Philippines - In the grand tradition of the holiday dinner, YStyle invites nine individuals of impeccable style to sit at our fantasy Christmas table. But the catch is — in lieu of their attendance and place cards — we’re only sending for their holiday place settings instead. From Himalayan salt blocks to gingerbread houses, fresh sprigs of fir to fragrant pinecones, a weighing scale for a charger plate to festive candy for décor, our “guests” set the tone for a table full of whimsy and the indulgent kind of merry-making.

For the holiday season, nothing succeeds quite like excess. In this YStyle editorial, take inspiration from these fabulous settings and dream up some décor magic for your own homes. Who knows? You still have a week to cook up something extraordinary for Noche Buena. 

Vince Uy Preview magazine creative director

Can you tell us about your place setting? What was your inspiration? Would you say your setting is reflective of your personality or did you have something else in mind?

I’m quite the maximalist when it comes to decorating so I like a lot of prints, texture and layers when it comes to table settings. I also like pairing chic and fun pieces to make the mix more interesting.  If I had more time I would have thrown in old Christmas hymn piano sheets to use as a table mat instead. 

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

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My partner and I always make sure to serves dishes that we absolutely love. I always make sure that the tones of the dishes we serve will complement our table setting. And since we believe that the best holiday meals come from comfort food, our no-fail dish (and my partner’s specialty) is cripsy lechon kawali topped over taba ng talangka pasta or rice.

Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story behind them or some of them?

Everything that you see has been with us from quite some time now. The plate with the rooster print is from St. Petersburg and was given to us by a dear friend. I always tend to lean towards anything gold for tableware hence this setting. The bell and gold string I used to tie the table napkin is actually part of Univers’ (Editor’s note: a luxury retailer in One Rockwell) Christmas gift packaging that I have collected in the past and repurposed for this setting.

Year after year, do you have any holiday traditions when it comes to entertaining? Do you like to change it up?

We love to host dinners and parties so we make sure so just consistently serve good food and drinks and play great music too.

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

Hosting, hands down.

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?

Diana Vreeland. Why? Three things: Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Plus I think she’d enjoy the lechon kawali.

Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, proprietors of Firma and AC+632

YSTYLE: Can you tell us about your place setting? What was your inspiration?

It’s a Victoriana meets Orientalist fantasy for the holidays which are about bringing joy, particularly at the table where you should surround yourself with beautiful things like crisp linens, fine silver and porcelain and of course sumptuous food. You want to add a twist, though, to make it more special and not too stuffy so Victorian refinement is contrasted with Orientalist exoticism.  

Instead of the usual immaculate white plates, we opt for pattern with a shot of color. The glasses are in exotic jewel colors. In lieu of a vase, a silver sugar pot or creamer is used for personalized arrangements to suit each guest who will be delighted that you remembered his or her favorite flower. So that the amuse bouche lives up to its name, we serve it in a silver butter dome, like a little secret to be slowly uncovered and savored. And for the pièce de résistance, there is nothing more opulent than adding a jewel of a napkin ring embellished with pearls, gemstones and a tassel. 

Would you say your setting is reflective of your personality or did you have something else in mind?

It’s definitely all about the things we love and indulge ourselves in.

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

We would normally ask chef Bambi Sy Gobio of Restaurante Pia y Damaso to surprise us with one of her creations made just for the occasion like baked camembert with honey, figs, dates, cranberries and apricots which has all the colors, scents and flavors of the season.

Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story behind some of them?

We loved the design of the silver cutlery when we first saw it but the set was not complete so our dealer was kind enough to look for missing pieces which he collected for us till our next visit to London. We always find Victorian silver “orphans” which no one normally wants, like a creamer without the matching sugar pot but some of them are so pretty that it’s a shame not to have them and use them.  We discovered they were perfect for the individualized flower arrangements. 

In any case, we always found that mismatching could be more interesting, like our wine and water goblets may be both classical in pattern but of different colors, matched with a totally modernist champagne flute. The linens are of our own design, and so is the jeweled napkin holder which adds an Orientalist, decadent touch to the bacchanalian feast.

Year after year, do you have any holiday traditions when it comes to entertaining? Do you like to change it up? 

We like having all our friends together for a special evening during this season, one of the rare times when friends from abroad are also in town to visit. Noche Buena and Christmas lunch with the family are also traditions which are precious because it becomes more and more difficult to have everyone together at one table at one time during these harried times. With the cuisine, there are always favorites that everyone looks forward to for Christmas so you really don’t want to disappoint by not having everyone’s holiday comfort food but new additions are always welcome. With table settings and décor of course, it’s fun to always come up with new themes and variations.

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

We love hosting because the preparations are always exhilarating — drawing up the guest list, choosing a theme, designing the invitation, gathering the elements for the settings and décor, fussing over the menu with Bambi, choosing the music, and of course making our guests happy.   

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?  

Oscar Wilde. He’s Victorian, he’s witty and he’s gay — all the things that make Christmas merry and bright!

Pauline Suaco-Juan, wife, mother, consultant

YSTYLE: Can you tell us about your place setting? What was your inspiration? Would you say your setting is reflective of your personality or did you have something else in mind?

I created this place setting around the Himalayan salt block, which looks so cool. I decided to pare down and keep everything restrained so as not to draw attention away from the pink centerpiece. 

I normally over-style; I like to put together contrasting, mismatched elements for my place settings. This one, though, harkens more towards my fashion sense, which is minimal with a ladylike flourish in my accessories (typically a statement shoe or bling).

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

Steak: 60-day dry-aged, 14-year-old Barossa beef, since you mentioned “perfect.” For practical purposes, black Angus from Unimart served medium-rare with a nice sear on the outside and a gradient pink on the inside, to echo, of course, the pink of the Himalayan salt block.

On another salt block for dessert, I would send out a scoop of Madagascar vanilla ice cream drizzled with olive oil.

Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story to some of them?

Nothing on the table is super precious, save for my wedding crystal, which was given to my husband and me by our ninang Judith Torres (who taught me everything I know about writing and editing).

The salt block is a fabulous find from S&R, and it sits on a wooden board out of necessity, since it needs to be heated in the oven (or over the stove) before you serve the steak on it. I bought the bread plate at Liberty years ago. I like how the skull foils the pink, and I happened to have skull-shaped glass salt and pepper shakers, which I would half-fill with Himalayan salt (for the unsalted butter on the bread plate) and pink peppercorns. Hmmm... Or maybe black Hawaiian volcanic salt and black peppercorns if the pink distracts. (Don’t you just hate it when what’s in your head doesn’t turn out that way IRL?)

If you look closely, the flatware is mismatched. I love how they look random. The stand is made of carabao horn; I bought it in the American Women’s Bazaar, from a lady who designed them because she was tired of seeing her tablecloth marred by kare-kare sauce!

The tablecloth is from the Margiela X H&M, and brilliantly upends the formality of the setting.

Year after year, do you have any holiday traditions when it comes to entertaining? Do you like to change it up?

Does making sure there’s lots of booze count as tradition?

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

Both.

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?

For this table setting? Maleficent! Her look totally goes with the setup.

Kaye Tinga, co-owner W/17 Home

YSTYLE: Can you tell us about your place setting? What was your inspiration? Would you say your setting is reflective of your personality or did you have something else in mind?

Since it’s the holidays, I tried to come up with a festive setting, or as festive as I can muster. Generally I like very neutral tones and prefer a simple and elegant look. But since it’s Christmas, I opted for a setting that’s more luxurious and “sparkly,” while still retaining an organic and natural feel, yet still reflective of the season. Still not as colorful as most, but I find it quite festive and joyful.

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

A perfect roast chicken.  It’s my favorite dish in the world; just add bubbly and I’m good to go.

Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story behind them or some of them?

I have been collecting dinnerware and glassware for many years, from flea markets to eBay to the finest home stores. And as a co-owner of W/17, I get the chance to travel all over the world in search of the most beautiful and original pieces. And in most places I visit, I try to add to my collection; the charger and soup bowl are from Astier de Villate, I got at one of my favorite stores in the world, ABC Home & Carpets in New York; the silverware, crystal butterflies and gold-rimmed champagne glasses are from Europe; and the black mercury votives are from India. I found the mini potted spruce Christmas trees on sale during my last visit to London, and couldn’t resist them.  And everything else is from W/17, the plates are from our Mona line, and together with the linens are manufactured locally by some of the finest artisans and needle workers in the country. The etched crystal champagne flute is from the Zwiesel 1872 line, and the amber goblet made of hand-blown glass is from IVV, available at W/17.

Year after year, do you have any holiday traditions when it comes to entertaining? Do you like to change it up?

Since it’s the season of cheer, no party is complete without bubbles, it just makes every guest feel like celebrating. 

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

I prefer being a dinner guest, mostly because I’m so particular, it takes me weeks to prepare, whether it’s a small dinner or a party for a hundred. My motto is “Everything worth doing is worth doing well,” so I’m all-in when I entertain, and as much as I enjoy planning, it can also be quite stressful.

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?

Michelle Obama. She is smart, funny, a good mom, and seems really chill for the woman married to the leader of the free world. In my imagination, I feel we have a lot in common, and could probably talk for hours. Throw in Ina Garten, the “Barefoot Contessa,” and I don’t ever have to attend another dinner again for the rest of my life.

Jae de Veyra Pickrell, features and copy editor, Preview magazine

YSTYLE: Can you tell us about your place setting? What was your inspiration? Would you say your setting is reflective of your personality or did you have something else in mind?

This table setting is totally reflective of my personality and fashion sense: looking as cute as possible with minimum stress but with just enough pseudo-luxe elements thrown in to say I made an effort. I just shopped from what I already have at home. It’s black and white with a lot of gold; the cutlery is few and easy, but the glassware is profuse since I like to switch between drinks throughout the course of a meal. The little bottle of bubbly is a no-brainer boozy present for guests.

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

I love a good paella. The number of glasses in the setting indicates that I enjoy drinks as much as food, and an easy carb fest should sop up all inhibitions as well as it aids digestion of booze. Perhaps paella negra to go with all the black? Though I believe the food should always come first and the setting second.

Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story to them or to some of them?

I bought most of them during my travels. The woven placemat and charcuterie board are from Onora Casa in Mexico. The plate is a limited-edition Marilyn Marlene Dali piece from Royal Doulton x Pure Evil, from the Saatchi Gallery in London. The cutlery is from Zara Home in Hong Kong; the gilded water glass is also from Zara Home, lugged all the way from Madrid. The dessert spoon, charcuterie utensils, cocktail straws, jigger and strainer are from Kappabashi in Tokyo, and the cocktail picks are from Tokyu Hands. The Yarai mixing glass and rocks glass are from Cocktail Kingdom in the States; the aperitif glass is from one of those flea shops on the way up to Tagaytay.  The wine glass is Schott Zwiesel. The napkin is from H&M Home and I used an agate ring by Janina Dizon-Hoschka as a napkin ring.

Year after year, do you have any holiday traditions when it comes to entertaining? Do you like to change it up?

My boyfriend and I have hosted our families in our home for the holidays for the past two years, and it’s been a lot of fun. He cooks and I set (or style, same thing) the tables, as well as putter about and pester everyone to keep on eating and drinking. We’ll host again this year and we’re thinking of a Mexican menu inspired by our most recent trip.

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

A guest, no doubt. It’s so much easier to be a gracious guest than to be a gracious host.

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?

I’m inclined to choose Salvador Dalí, one of my favorite painters. Not everyone knows he was a huge foodie. He actually wanted to become a cook when he was young and penned a surreal cookbook when he was in his late sixties. I imagine it would be a riot to talk to him and feed him all manner of shellfish (his fave) and Japanese exotica. But since my boyfriend will be the one doing the heavy culinary lifting and because it’s Christmas, I’m gonna be totally unselfish and decide instead on my boyfriend’s dear departed dad. I had never met him, and all the stories I’ve heard about him are amazing — he was well-respected and loved by his peers and students in martial arts, and he was hilarious to boot. It would be incredible for him to experience my boyfriend’s kind of cooking now, which has changed so much from when he was still alive.

Tim Yap, host and eventologist

YSTYLE: Can you tell us about your place setting? What was your inspiration? Would you say your setting is reflective of your personality or did you have something else in mind?

I like it playful and devoid of pretense. I love art, fashion, home finds and food. I like to mix textures and use other things that are not what you’d normally see on a dining table, thus the weighing scale as base plate, the sculpture as accent and the multicolored chocolates scattered around the table. One should not just live life to eat but to have fun while doing it, too.

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

The chopsticks are for dimsum so I’d say this meal will be a dimsum degustation. Ten courses at least!

Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story behind them or some of them?

The plates I hand-carried from Fornaseti in Milan so there’s sentimental value. The glasses are from Celine Lopez’s sale while the sculpture is from young artist Yeo Kaa, the cutlery from my childhood friend Jehan Li who supplies all the top hotels all their plates and the chocolates from Villa Del Conte.

Year after year, do you have any holiday traditions when it comes to entertaining? Do you like to change it up?

I just moved to my new house this year so any tradition, if there will be any, will start this year.

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

Being a guest is easier. But there’s a distinct joy in hosting. I guess I’ll stick to TV and event hosting and leave that other form of hosting to the experts.

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?

James Corden. I wanna pick his brain and then do carpool karaoke.

Abba Napa, restaurateur and co-founder,The Moment Group

YSTYLE: Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story behind them?

I love plateware and glassware and pretty much anything for table settings. People hoard different things. I hoard plates and glasses. I especially love stoneware and I love local artisans. I have always tried to get my hands on nice pieces when I come across them.

Recently, we have been working with some amazing potters for some potential plateware for one of our restaurants. The restaurant, having a particular style, has to adhere to a certain aesthetic. But there were all these deliciously unique-looking pieces sitting in my office for weeks and every day I’d come in I’d discover something new and interesting to want, but not be able to consider for the restaurant. So finally I thought I’d just pick up a few of those pieces for myself. These ones in particular are from Joey de Castro and Mia Casal.

I’ve always enjoyed coming together around a table and enjoying good company but ironically, I don’t get to do that as much anymore since we started Moment. In fact, these last couple of months, I’ve been dining alone a lot and in-between meetings. Sneaking it in, with a bed tray as my new best friend, during the early morning before rushing off is my new normal!

This setting is reflective of how my breakfast meals normally are. This like a deconstructed bento box of sorts — a “single-packaged home-cooked meal” with all elements laid out in one go for the person on the run. With me barely having any time lately for a real sit-down meal, the way to go is this.

No matter how simple the fare, the prettier the tableware, I find the happier you are. And it’s always nice to be happy in the morning!

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

I’d have some really lovely glistening aburi sushi laid out on the flat plate — tamago, spicy scallop and whatever is seasonal at the time. Perfect for requesting Bruce (Ricketts) to whip up something amazing from Mecha Uma.

In the bowl, I’d have a lush portion of different greens and cherry tomatoes and whatnot drizzled with a simple sesame dressing. Then a little cup of cold dry sake or maybe some shochu and my favorite iced brown barley tea to wash it all down.

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

I prefer hosting but I haven’t done that much at all since we started Moment and since it has taken over our lives. (Laughs)

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?

How about imaginary? If so, Tony Stark. He is such a character and highly intelligent so that should at least make for an interesting evening. The worst thing that can happen at a dinner party is for everybody to end up being bored.

Maureen Disini, fashion designer

YSTYLE: Can you tell us about your place setting? What was your inspiration? Would you say your setting is reflective of your personality or did you have something else in mind?

My setting is pretty simple and functional. I didn’t think of a theme this time. I just wanted to use pieces that would go well with my black and white home.

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

It would have to be Italian food!

Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story behind them or some of them?

I used my favorite Fornasetti plate and used a lot of pieces from Rustan’s (given to me as presents for my wedding).

Year after year, do you have any holiday traditions when it comes to entertaining? Do you like to change it up?

I don´t really have a holiday tradition when it comes to entertaining but I do rely on a signature caterer, Cibo di M for floral arrangements and food, Manila Premier Wines for Prosecco and wine. I also like using Fae candles all throughout dinner and try to stock up on them as much as I can.

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

I prefer being invited to dinners. It’s more fun being a guest!

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?

I would like to have Madonna over. She would be the life of the party for sure!

Sonja Ocampo, founder of Cupcakes by Sonja

YSTYLE: Can you tell us about your place setting? What was your inspiration? Would you say your setting is reflective of your personality or did you have something else in mind?

My place setting celebrates nature at home. I selected honest, natural materials and finishes, and made use of neutral palettes like pale blue, cream and cool gray.

I’ve been frequenting Copenhagen a lot in the last few years and I’m so drawn to their simple, yet elegant fuss-free style. They have this deep-rooted love for nature and they make use of clean lines and forms.

Yes, I’ve always had a minimalist approach to my personal style.

If you could serve one dish to go perfectly with this setting, what would it be?

Fresh blueberry pie.

Can you tell us about some of the pieces you used? Is there a story behind them or some of them?

I used a lot of stuff from Crate and Barrel for my table.  They have a wide selection of decor and homeware items to dress up your dining table. 

I like using their round woven placemat. It always adds a fun textural contrast to my place setting. I also spruce up my holiday table with jewel tones or metallic colors. For this one, I used gold cutlery to give it that nice, warm metallic glow.

Year after year, do you have any holiday traditions when it comes to entertaining? Do you like to change it up?

Each year, my family assigns a theme for our Christmas celebration. We really stick to it and make sure that the decor, food and music matches the theme. We decide on the theme months in advance to give us ample time to prepare and to experiment on dishes that will be served on that night. It’s always a family affair so the kids really get involved and help out.  

In general, do you prefer being a dinner guest or do you prefer hosting?

A dinner guest. Being in the F&B industry requires us to entertain and cook for guests on a more regular basis. Because of this, it becomes such a treat for us to have those nights when we get to just sit back and enjoy the food and the company.

If you could have one fantasy guest over for a holiday dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?

Elon Musk. Because currently, Tesla is the most innovative company in the world. I’d love to be able to pick his brains on how he builds breathtaking solutions that leverage emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics. I know it sounds really geeky but I’d love to see where the future is headed.  

 

Photos by GABBY CANTERO

Assisted by BERT SANTOS

Sittings by FRANCINE GACRAMA

Special thanks to MOZAIC LIVING

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